Mickey Callaway’s life philosophy has not wavered, not for a moment. There’s no need to lose your cool, even when things are disastrously bad. Process and consistency are the keys to eventual success. And failure can be the greatest teacher.
The problem, of course, is that even if all these things are true, the Mets are currently going through this tempest in a tailspin. If failure is a teacher, then this team has a Ph.D., and Monday it presented its thesis: A 6-4 loss to the lowly Pirates that was typified by lousy defense and wasted chances.
The Mets scored four in the seventh — mostly thanks to Wilmer Flores’ three-run, pinch-hit homer — but couldn’t break through against a Pirates bullpen that was all but giving the game away. Before that, the Mets had more errors (3) than hits (2) through six, and gave up two unearned runs in the first three innings.
In what was supposed to be a pivotal stretch for a turnaround — even Callaway admitted Monday that they probably have about two weeks to turn things around — has instead buried the team further, as they fell to 14 games under .500 and extended their losing streak to seven.
But for all that, Callaway didn’t budge in his defiant optimism. He even found a bright side in Sunday’s brutal “bullpen” game adding that he would do it again: a testament, at least, to his Zen-like nature.
“Other than seven homers, we did OK,” he said, with a slight chuckle that indicated he understood the irony. “I think that the game plan was to try to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win if we didn’t have a starter, and those guys did that.”
And Monday night, other than the three errors — two by Luis Guillorme, playing out of position at third, and another by Asdrubal Cabrera at second — the defense was fine. Seth Lugo gritted out five innings, allowing four hits and three runs, only one earned, with three walks and four strikeouts. Michael Conforto nearly hit a two-run homer in the fifth, but the ball veered just foul (he struck out instead). Trailing 3-0 in the sixth, Tyler Bashlor — who was in Double-A on Sunday — gave up a two-run home run to Josh Bell. Back-to-back doubles from Jose Reyes and Kevin Plawecki in the seventh cut the deficit to 5-1. Guillorme walked, and Flores teed off a 96-mph fastball, driving it to the leftfield bleachers for a three-run homer to make it 5-4.
A walk to Conforto put the tying run on, but Steven Brault struck out Jose Bautista and got Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Mets now have 45 losses and, after an 11-1 start, they’re now among the worst teams in baseball. Sill, Callaway said there was a method to his mildness.
“I hate losing, more than anybody,” he said. “[But] it’s not just about today. The even-keel manner . . . is something that’s important to us as an organization moving forward, not just, ‘Oh, he’s mad today.’ That doesn’t tend to get you out of a slump or get your teammates more on board with you or get more buy-in from players. It’s the day-to-day grind and doing the things the right way that’s going to change what we’re doing.”
While players certainly enjoy his consistent demeanor, fans have been less forgiving. Social media is abuzz with calls to fire both Callaway and general manager Sandy Alderson, and injuries have made it increasingly difficult to field a competitive team.
“I think that you’re always learning every day, but this has been probably the best learning experience for our team than any other stretch that we’re probably going to have,” Callaway said. “It’s been tough. We’ve learned a lot about each other. I think that we’re going to end up being a better group of people and a better team because we went through this stretch, but we’ve all definitely learned a ton.”
Still, the trade deadline looms large, and with the way the Mets are trending, there’s every possibility that come July 31, a number of players will be using their hard-earned knowledge with another, more competitive team.
“We just have to keep on doing what we do,” Callaway said. “The next two weeks probably does need to decide what direction we’re going in, but us in the clubhouse can’t really concern ourselves with that and just go out there and try to win games every night.”
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.